Having a baby prematurely, for many women, can be very traumatizing and lead to PTSD or in this case, severe Postpartum-depression. What's a husband to do when his wife blames herself, even though the baby is healthy?
SensitiveRow6 is desperate for a way to help his wife.
Submissions have been edited for clarity, context, and profanity.
My wife, Jamie, and I didn't plan to get pregnant, but we did. We were surprisingly happy about it and started planning for our little family.
Jamie did everything right during the pregnancy, but our baby girl decided that she wanted to be born ridiculously early about four weeks ago. Things are looking up for us, she's getting stronger by the day and is doing great, all things considered.
Jamie isn't doing as well, however. She loves our baby with the whole of her heart and I almost have to drag her away from the hospital to get some sleep and a shower. But she keeps blaming herself for what happened. She thinks that there's something she did wrong, even though the doctors have told us that this is just something that happens occasionally.
She spends hours at home just googling things that could cause early labor and tries to convince herself that she's done all of those things, though she definitely didn't.
I've managed to get her to go and see a psychiatrist and she's gotten diagnosed with Post-Partum Depression. She just recently started treatment for it, so there hasn't been much change yet.
My question is: what can I do to help her?
I do a lot around the house, but I don't want to do everything so that she still has something to busy herself with if she needs to. Of course, if she doesn't feel up for it, I do it. I don't want to put extra pressure on her.
Thanks in advance!
Also, I'm sorry if this is a bit ramble-y. I haven't slept well lately, for obvious reasons.
TL;DR: Baby was born extremely early and wife blames herself. She's been diagnosed with PPD. What can I do to help?
Help Jamie find ways to make her body useful.
I gave birth to twins unexpectedly at 25 weeks, 0 days myself and felt exactly how your wife feels. Still do sometimes. The blame is so intense and watching your child in the NICU only makes it worse.
The best thing my husband did for more was helping me see all the ways in which my body could be useful to our sons. Is she breast pumping? Is she able to do skin-to-skin yet? Has she started reading to your little one so she knows her voice and feels safe?
Physical intimacy also helped me reclaim my body in many ways, to help me feel loved and valued but also to give my husband the opportunity to praise me in ways solely his own.
Has she made friends with any of the NICU nurses, respiratory therapist, or parents yet? Most NICUs run support groups that are immensely helpful in feeling less alone. Talk to the parent coordinator because they usually have phone and email contacts for graduated parents as well.
You also didn't mention family and friend support. It is hard to see how good your child is doing when you see them every day. We used an app called Tinybeans to post daily updates for friends and family. Seeing their encouraging comments about what strong parents we are and being able to look back over time and highlight milestones really helped. It also gave me something productive to do as I sat beside their incubators.
Also, still have a baby shower if you were planning to. Your wife did very hard work in bringing your daughter into the world and should be celebrated for it.
Sorry for the ramble, but this hits very close to home. My one son didn't make it but my other is 5 months corrected now, home and thriving. Sending love and encouragement your way.
Therapy and meds will help in time.
That's a great start that she's seen a psychiatrist for medication. But it definitely sounds like she needs therapy to work through what happened in addition to the medicine.
I just want to say that I'm sorry for what you are both going through and what it's done to her specifically. I also wanted to point out how wonderful and supportive you are being toward her. She needs that almost more than anything right now, and it will most likely strengthen your bond. I've unfortunately been though a situation involving pregnancy and did not have a supportive husband or family, and I ended up so isolated and alone and the marriage ended because of it. Just being there for your wife and even reaching out for help for her is so admirable. I also want to say that you should make sure you're taking care of yourself too because you're going through a lot as well. Wishing all the best for you, your wife, and your baby girl.
Find a support group.
Oh, goodness. This is so hard. A support group could help. Be there for her, as much as you can.
Keep Jamie busy.
Preemie mom here. I had feelings of guilt and failure. Everyone is different, but in response to this comment, I just want to add that while you're taking care of your wife and the house, make sure you aren't going overboard and exacerbating her feelings of uselessness. She may need kid gloves at the moment, but she may also want to do things herself and contribute to the housework or just stay busy.
Best wishes for your family.
Premature birth is nobody's fault - it just happens.
Hi, OP. I work in medical genetics and saw quite a few premature babies in my training. Unfortunately, it is something that just happens, which can sometimes be hard for people to come to terms with, especially if they are struggling with PPD. Self blame/guilt is a coping mechanism for many people and I think her response is a normal one. Many parents feel they should be able to protect their children from anything, whether it's genetic, an accident, etc.
From the sound of your post, she was doing the right things, getting prenatal care, etc. There were no signs of prematurity. There was nothing that either of you could have done to cause this and nothing you could have done to stop it.
I always like to equate it to slipping on black ice. You can't tell there's ice on the ground until you walk over it. Would you consider it your fault if you couldn't see it? Probably not. Could you have reasonably prevented it? No, because you can't live your life in a bubble always looking out for black ice.
Unfortunately, coming to terms with this takes time. I think you are already doing the right things in terms of supporting her and I'm glad she is seeking help. I think that you should continue to be there for her, validate her feelings and give her some more time to process these events with the help of therapy. When she's feeling better, maybe you can help her work on making sure she's taking care of herself. Spending time at the hospital, having contact with the baby, etc. is great. But it's hard to take care of someone else if you're not sleeping, getting out of the hospital and being a human outside of the NICU.
Best of luck to your family. Congratulations on the new addition. :)
No more Googling!
Do you think she would agree to blocking the Google search page for "early labor" and her more obsessive medical websites on your WiFi? For some people that can be a form of self-harm, and it's reinforcing her in a bad way.
Well whaddya know - there's an app for that.
I also had a preemie on New Years Eve 2016 and she's absolutely thriving now. All those hours in the NICU were extremely difficult and I definitely understand the feeling of your body betraying you. Something that really helped me is an app called MyPreemie. It has a journal format and NICU/preemie specific milestones. Sometimes I still go back and read how I was feeling at that time, writing everything down was very cathartic.
They joy you'll feel the day your baby leaves the hospital is absolutely unrivaled and something you'll never forget. I wish you the best, please be kind to yourself as well.
Stay the course with treatment.
Treatment for depression - including PPD - takes about 6 weeks to 'kick in', so it's not unexpected that you won't see any change in her just yet. It sounds like you're doing all the right things, and keeping her safe until her treatment can catch up with her illness. Keep her in therapy, keep being supportive, keep telling her the truth even if she doesn't believe it.
This is the best outlook.
I was born early! My mom was pissed because I was born a few days before a wedding they had to go to lol. I guess I just wanted to party.
She didn't do anything wrong, your baby was just excited to meet ya ❤️